Friday, June 27, 2008

The Candy-seller on Cycle is back: Magic of Mithai-wala

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

In my childhood, the guy on cycle who sold this unique 'mithai' (sweet) was always a much sought-after person.

The guy would take a bit of 'mithai' from the pole on his cycle, and then create any shape out of it.

A small butterfly or a tree, a bird or even a four-wheeler like a jeep or car, you just asked and he made it.

Of course, the bird and the butterfly were the cheapest and in those days not everybody could afford to pay more than 50 paise or Re 1.

Most of the kids went for the 'chidiya' [bird] that cost just 25 paise. It was like a desi chewing gum, though much tastier.

Or, perhaps memories of childhood are always more tastier. After a long time, I recently spotted a mithai-seller.

He told me that business was not good. The mithai-wala also said that he had come from Malegaon [Maharashtra] and mostly sold this mithai in slums and outside schools.

Not the public or English medium schools but government schools where children still get ber, imli, jamun outside.

That is another reason why we don't come across these mithai-walas, as much. I gave him Rs 5 and he deftly created a cycle for me, within seconds.

Back to Bachpan

It was like a magic in childhood when the mithai-wala made the 'chidiya' and would blow a customary whistle without any lip movement while handing it to the kid.

That was a sales trick as children would feel that the sound had come out of the 'bird' and they always tried to imitate.

Of late, I was feeling that these mithai-walas have become extinct. And when I found it decades later, again I was fascinated by the art. In the photo along with the post, you can see this little ' sweet cycle' made of the sugary floss.

As it was quite hot, I rushed to my destination, showed it to a couple of friends before it melted into my mouth.

Really delicious! Is there anybody who hasn't tasted it? If only a Pepsi or an Uncle Chipps markets it, this would be sold for five times the existing price.

And then it would be fashionable to buy it. But the poor mithai-walas continue to earn barely in the range of Rs 100-Rs 150 on their best days and confine themselves to areas inhabited by the poor.

Pictures: 1.The desi sweetmeat seller on his cycle that holds a pole covered with umbrella to prevent the sugary material from melting.

2. In the other photo a child looks at mithai-wala's art, engrossed. 3. Here the 'mithai wali cycle' is ready for consumption.